Spark & Spice: Chapter 11: Hate You!

{ Longest update I have ever written…
Thanks to each and every one of you who read, voted and wriD2J5gWRWwAE68Zjte back what they liked or what they didn’t. I’m writing for you people! Thanks for motivating me.
Love you all }

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Nandini took small steps towards Malhotra mansion, after being consoled by Manik. It was all new for her. New. Unbelievable. Scary!!

An assistant approached them taking fast steps, wished Manik a ‘good evening, sir’… and took keys from him to park his car in the garage. Another one followed the first one, wished him and relieved Manik of all the luggage he was carrying. Manik gave him the bag and shrugged to straighten his blazer in a manner that was authoritative and commanding!

Nandini first threw a surprised glance at the assistants and their eagerness to serve, then she threw another glance at Manik.

A sheepish smile made it’s way on Manik’s lips. For the first time ever, he was getting embarrassed of the riches and power he possessed. It distanced him from her and it wasn’t a very easy feeling to accept. She rolled her eyes at that and murmured in a helpless tone, “I’m sure, I’m at a wrong place. Aiyappa, please be with me.”

He heard each word from her and smirked inwardly, but not a hint of it appeared on his face. He remained quite and straight faced on the surface.

Soon, they entered the long corridor leading to the huge living room, exquisitely decorated in antique artefacts, expensive carpets and unique, extra-ordinary furniture. It was more than enough to make Nandini feel out of place. To such an extent that she was scared to step over the glistening white, fake-fur carpet, wondering if her feet would make it dirty. Manik walked to step beside her and when he wanted to say – ‘Feel at home, please!’… and in fact, he should have said that…instead, he heard himself saying, “Don’t worry, the staff will get everything cleaned properly in the morning.”

She shot a disapproving glance at him and snapped back in a low tone, “Excuse me! Just because I shared my apprehensions with you, doesn’t give you the right to pass derogatory statements for me.”

“No..no…That was not meant to be derogatory!” Manik Malhotra was surprised to find himself defending his words. Like what??!!! This was yet another of the so many firsts, that happened today?… And by the way, why did he have to explain that he wasn’t being sarcastic… he didn’t even mean what he just said… he didn’t even know how to talk to a girl when he was tongue-tied before her… and it wasn’t a dig at her or her humble background!! He had no idea why he needed to defend himself, but he was doing it.

She didn’t believe him, was another story altogether. She was slightly miffed, and was almost in tears, which didn’t fall down. She turned to him and asked, “Didn’t you mean that the staff will get the carpets and furniture cleaned in the morning after I walk over it?”

“I did!! But how does that offend you?” He shrugged. “They do that everyday!”

“Do you inform about it to every guest who comes here?”

“Of course, not!”

“Then why me?”

“Because you were getting conscious.”

“So, does that give you the right to point it out on my face?”

“Listen…I really don’t know why you took offence. I’m really sorry. God! I have been apologizing ever since I met you.’

“Because you should…”

“Listen Nandini, take a deep breath… you are nervous! Okay?”

“Why do I feel that you are more nervous than me?”

“Me? Nervous?? Ha!!! You are talking to Manik Malhotra, who is NEVER nervous!”

“Yeah…yeah… ‘manikmalhotra’…” She swayed her jaw in a tease.

If it was for someone else, he would have been dead by now. But when it was Nandini Murthy, he found it adorable.

‘Something must be wrong with me…’  He thought.

“I’m sorry. Okay… Let’s go!!” He said.

“Okay…I’m sorry, as well !!” She turned her neck to look at him and he assured her with a blink of his eyes. When she should have been upset at him, she felt relieved, instead.

Taking a deep breath in, she followed him and when they entered the living room, she flashed a huge smile towards the family that was waiting to take her in their arms. She had met dadi before, on her previous trip to India. Rest were all new to her.

Nandini bent down to touch their feet. Dadi, dadu and Maya chachi hugged her to shower their blessings on her. They made her sit and tried their best to make her feel comfortable. A spread of scrumptious meal was laid down before her, which she politely refused, saying that she was full. They told her about the members in their family and also asked questions… about her trip, about her journey till home and about her training that she had to join in Paris. All of it was just small talk to make her feel at home.

She had a crimson blush plastered on her face for most of the time. She replied to questions in a low voice, with a soft smile on her lips and a coy tinge of red on her cheeks. A row of helpers were rushed to attend to her, to make her drink or eat something, to help her settle her belongings, to take her to her room and to ensure that she was well taken care of.

Manik noticed how she was quiet and reclusive for most of the duration. It appeared that she wasn’t bestowed with any vocal glands in her throat. And when she spoke, she was so low as if a butterfly flapped her wings.

Maya chachi touched his arm and shook him out of his spell. “Manik, where is Harshad? He had said that he will come by tonight.”

“Chachi, I’ve talked to him. He’ll be there tomorrow.”

“Are you sure?” Maya knew her son too well. “Is it like, he is running away from marriage? Does he have any problem?”

“Chachi…” Manik wanted to tell her but before that Maya spoke.

“Manik… I like this girl a lot. She is perfect for my son who needs to settle down in a stable relationship as soon as possible. I don’t want him to throw this away.”

Manik held Maya’s arms and consoled her, “Don’t worry, Chachi. I’ll make sure that nothing goes wrong.”

Maya took his hand in her hand and squeezed it. “Manik, I wish Harshad was even half as responsible as you are! Thanks for being the most amazing son of the family.”

Manik nodded to wave it off and hugged her.

Dadi was still talking to Nandini, “I will call you ‘Nandu’…your granny used to call you that!”

Nandini blushed and nodded.

“Take rest for tonight. We’ll talk again at the breakfast.” Dadi told her.

Nandini followed one of the female attendants towards her room but before that her eyes searched for Manik around the room. She wondered why she did that!

Maybe, because he had extended an unspoken comfort to her, in the car and before meeting their relatives. She tried to justify her action.

When she turned around the room to look for him, she found him near the staircase, pressing keys on his phone, as if replying to a message. He was about to take the stairs, to go to his room. Once again, Nandini couldn’t guess why her heart sank at that. It was weird that she wanted to see him before she went to her room and say goodbye before calling it a night.

As if on cue, Manik raised his eyes from the phone, just before he took the stairs and turned his neck to look at her. Nandini was thrilled at that and she sent him a warm smile across the room. The smile he flashed in return was enough to light up further, the room which was already over illuminated.

……………………..

Nandini couldn’t feel easy even inside her room.

“Nandini Murthy, are you mad? You messed up with Manik Malhotra??!! The Manik Malhotra!! I mean, he came to receive you at the airport and you called him ‘roadside romeo’ and a ‘possible thief’ !!! And then, when he assured you that Malhotras are good people who didn’t bother about financial status of people they like, you went ahead and accused him of berating you?? You are gone now…pakka!! He is going to make sure that your stay in this house is as difficult as it can be!! Aiyappa, please save me.”

She moved around the luxurious bedroom with mesmerizing interiors and soft upholstery in peach and grey. It was so beautiful and sparkling clean that once again she was apprehensive and was reminded of Manik’s words that the servants would get it cleaned in the morning if she used them.

“Devil in disguise!” She smiled to herself.

…………………………

Just before Manik crashed on his bed after changing into his nightwear, a comfortable tee shirt and track pants, he received a message on his phone.

Harshad had sent Nandini’s picture on his phone. Manik rolled his eyes and cursed him under his breath, “Now you send it??? You Loser!!”

Nevertheless, he opened the picture and lost his sleep for good.

Nevertheless, he opened the picture and lost his sleep for good

‘What part of her is not likeable?’ He wondered.

‘Harshad is a certified loser by all means. He can’t see the beauty behind this pretty face. He fails to recognise the innocence in this simplicity. He doesn’t like how she talks or what she loves to do? What more does he want from his life?’

After a thorough brainstorming session, he finally realised where Harshad had been missing the point. “Clearly…She is not ‘his type’… that’s it!! Nandini is not the problem, it’s Harshad!! He is not even ready for marriage. Let alone, marry a sweet, simple, innocent girl from India.”

He clicked his tongue, chiding himself for getting involved more than required, “Why am I trying to analyse someone else’ relationship?? It is clearly not my forte… I hardly know anything about relationships myself!! …Moreover, it’s taking me nowhere …I need to sleep. .”

The moment he buried his face in his pillow, lying flat on his belly, he got a call from Cabir.

“Get a life, Cabir. How can you forego sleep to laugh over other people’s issues??”

Cabir laughed heartily, “I can do anything for good entertainment. And for the first time ever, my victim is ‘The.Mighty.Malhotra’….the invincible one… who just got knocked down by a small, little storm from India.”

“Shut up!! How do you come up with such stupid metaphors?”

“Is it false?”

“The storm part is true!” He smirked, “Ever since I’ve met her, I have been apologising for one thing or the other!”

“See, I told you. Now, Manik apologising is something!!”

“Cabir, do you really work as Head of Sales team in corporate sector? I could have easily recommended you for the Moulin Rouge.”

Cabir laughed more on that. He was thoroughly enjoying it. Irritated Malhotra being teased mercilessly was not an everyday thing to witness.

“So?? What is the status?”

“Status? What status??”

“You two…”

“Stop pulling my leg, Cabir. It’s nothing… N.O.T.H.I.N.G!!! Alright??? You know that we just met Nandini, around 2 hours back. It’s okay to like people when you meet them. These are ‘vibes’ that you get from strangers too…sometimes good, sometimes bad… We received good vibes from her and that’s it!!”

“That’s it??”

“Yeah!!” Manik spoke strongly, as if to convince himself, “There is nothing more to read into this. In fact, we even had a small tussle while entering the house…”

Cabir whistled, “Tussle?? Awesome!! What else?”

“Nothing else!!! She is a nice girl. I hope Harshad doesn’t break her heart. I’ve promised Maya chachi and dadi that I will take care of the launch tomorrow and the engagements to go smoothly.”

“What about Nandini?”

“Harshad has promised that he will come tomorrow. He will be there and I hope he changes his mind after meeting Nandini.”

“Even if he does and is ready to marry her, he doesn’t deserve her.”

“I know. But who are we to decide? They have been in touch… over phone and mails. They know each other well.”

“What if, he hurts her?”

“I don’t know…” Manik rubbed his forehead with his hand, “I need to talk to Harshad about it. I really need to make sure that things don’t go out of hand. It’s not only about Nandini, it involves dadi, dadu, chachi and our business too… It calls for a bed reputation in the market and lowers our credibility.”

“Why do I hear ‘only Nandini’…when you are taking all other names just to convince yourself.”

“Cabir!!!” Manik used his trademark stern tone to shut up Cabir.

“Okay… okay!! Don’t get angry now! I’m going to sleep and hope you sort out the little mess going in your mind right now.”

“There is NO mess!!” Manik spoke strongly, “Yes, I liked her. She’s cute. Period. It’s completely normal to feel like that. But it is abnormal to act on such a small, silly feeling. I will make sure that her stay on our house is as comfortable as it can be!!”

“Good!! Now, I just want you to stick to what you spoke.”

“I WILL!! Coz I mean it!!”

“All the best… and Good night!”

………………………………….

Manik had lost his sleep. Tired, he got up to get something from the refrigerator to eat, but now he lost his way too, for he found Nandini sitting on the parapet in the balcony, watching the sky and the stars.

Twice, he must have checked himself, that he shouldn’t talk to her…he was sure of that!
He avoided going to her but then someone deep inside him asked him to make sure that she was fine and didn’t need anything. Afterall, it was her first day in Malhotra mansion. She had just arrived here. As a duty, he was supposed to make her stay as comfortable as possible.
Finally, after a little tussle with himself, he gave up and opened the glass door to the balcony, but once again, he decided against it.
He had to stay away from her. He ‘NEEDED’ to stay away from her, for himself!!

Too late!! She had seen him.

When he began to close the door and leave, she called him, “Manik!”

“Hmm! Yeah??!!” Sheepish, he pressed his lips together and ran his tongue for a small trip inside his cheek, trying to come up with a good excuse for coming there and then leaving, unannounced.

“Why were you going back?” She asked in a sweet voice, tilting her neck.

He stood by the parapet and observed her pretty face, shining under under the moonlight. He didn’t speak anything.

“You won’t answer?”

He replied in a teasing tone, “Madam… you are new here! Otherwise, you would have known that Manik Malhotra doesn’t answer every question.”

She twisted her lips in appreciation, “Wow!! That’s so awesome… You’ve created an ‘aura’ for yourself??? How does it feel?? People get scared??” She giggled with that.

That adorable little creature was cracking jokes at him and he wasn’t even angry. It did irritate him, but just for a moment, “You think it is a joke?”

“No. I was serious!” She blinked her eyes and assured him before smirking and turning her face away.

“What are you doing here? Do you need anything?” He asked.

“No!” She nodded.

“Aren’t you tired? You should be sleeping right now.” His words, his voice had concern for her.

“I’m a little uneasy.” She confessed.

“I can understand. It’s a new place, new country… new people… in fact, all of them unknown to you… Strangers!! You must be feeling lonely and weird.”

“More than that, it’s like…I’m getting engaged tomorrow. To a man, that I have never met. And he is not even here! Is it really weird? Or am I overthinking?”

She didn’t know why she could talk to him so easily. To a near stranger!!! Something she didn’t do even with people who knew her since years. She was generally a quiet girl. Someone who took a long time to open up. She had been easy with Cabir too. She had been laughing and cracking jokes, asking questions but even with him, she knew she would take time to share her deepest fears and secrets.

But with Manik, she had immediately confessed how apprehensive she was before entering their mansion. She had accused him of following her at the airport. She had accused him of passing derogatory comment on her in the corridor. She was vocal about everything she felt!! How!!! This was NOT Nandini Murthy!! She hardly ever spoke to people, that candidly! If she felt bad, she moved away from the scene. She didn’t stand and accuse people. Leave alone, fight with them. She never shared what she felt, with anyone! But with Manik, it seemed like she wasn’t herself anymore… she became someone else. Someone, who had connect with him.

How was that even possible? She had met him just a few hours back!

And now, she had just told him about the worst fear she had been facing… about Harshadji.

Manik had no answer to this. How he wished he could tell her about Harshad, but he couldn’t! He had promised Maya chachi that everything will go fine… He needed to wait! He needed to talk to Harshad before that. He needed to make sure what was going in Harshad’s mind.

He turned her question to a question, “When was the last time you talked to Harshad?”

“About a month back. When I was applying for visa and getting the tickets booked.”

“Are you in regular touch with him? Do you like him?” Manik had no idea why he asked that. He felt like hitting himself for that personal question. He never did that!

But Nandini was cool about it. She didn’t feel awkward talking to him about it. She shrugged lightly, “Yeah. He is a nice man. We don’t talk much on phone and we are on chats or messages about once in 2-3 months… but I’m fine with that. He is a busy man. I get it that it’s a huge responsibility. Taking care of business and all, being at such a high post.”

Manik rolled his eyes at that.

‘So this is what that a**hole had told her and this is what he meant when he said that he has to pretend being nice before her. Harshad taking care of business and being responsible was exactly like Sun shining in the night or a river flowing upwards. 

“What else did he tell you?”

Nandini blushed while talking about Harshad, “Not much. I can’t talk much with him. I get nervous and all… and he says that he talks less so we don’t speak a lot…”

‘Harshad talks less?! … Wow… perfect!!’

She continued, “He has told me once that he likes to travel, he loves music, he’s into sports and cars…but why am I telling you? You are his cousin. You must be knowing him well.”

Manik replied in a sarcastic tone, “Actually, we get to see so less of him that we hardly know him!”

She didn’t get the sarcasm in his voice. She was living in her own bubble, though a bit confused, fuzzy bubble. “I’ve seen his pictures… is he as good looking as he appears in his pictures?”

Manik twisted his lips in irritation. If only there was a way to stop her ‘Harshad Chant’… and why was he even bothered!!!

“Not as good looking as his pictures…he is ‘bee-yyyyooonnnn-dddd’ that!!” Manik exagerrated the word ‘beyond’ to create an irksome effect.

She laughed, “Then??  As good looking as you??”

‘Did she mention that he was good looking?? No, she just wanted a reference to compare Harshad. Obviously, she didn’t mean to unintentionally compliment him!!’

“A little less…” Manik shrugged with a smirk and Nandini rolled her eyes disbelievingly, “You are jealous! He must be better than you, I guess!!”

“Like… is that even possible??”

She was laughing again, sweetly though, “You think so highly of yourself. Don’t you??”

“No… It’s like this – Everybody thinks so highly of me!! So, I just agree with them…”

“And what do people think about Harshadji??”

He was almost on the verge of telling her what everyone thought about Harshad. But he stayed quiet and turned away.

As an afterthought, she said, “Manik…”

He hated it when she spoke his name. No one ever made it sound so perfect, so exciting and so compelling. He wished she stopped calling him by his name. She was serious this time.

“Hmm? Yeah??” He licked his lower lip with his tongue, trying to appear nonchalant.

“I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“I don’t know… It’s a weird uneasiness that has been creeping inside me. Am I doing right? Am I trusting a right man? It’s a gamble… Arranged marriage! But I had no say in it and I agreed. I had no option. Then Harshadji and I started talking over the mails and messages. Sometimes, on phone. I convinced myself that I liked him. But I’ve never met him. I hope he turns out the way I have imagined him to be.”

Manik pressed his lips together and turned to look away.

What was he doing? He knew that Harshad was not even close to this girl’s dreams and expectations. She was not here for his money. She was here for she was being pushed in an arranged marriage and she had no hold over it. It wasn’t her fault that the guy was not worthy of her attention. She didn’t deserve this!!

She continued, “It’s normal, right? To feel like this?? All girls who go through arranged marriage must be feeling this way, na??”

Without speaking a word, he turned to look at her innocent face and hated her for being so naive. He hated her for being so accepting of how Harshad was fooling her, even when he didn’t want to marry her.

“Manik…I don’t know anyone in Paris. You are the first one I met, sorry, almost banged into, when I set my foot in this new country. And then, I met Cabir. I really like both of you. Can I trust you to be with me, when I need you?”

He was already on a guilt trip. She didn’t need to say this sentence to further drown him in the ocean of remorse. He gathered all his courage and decided to break his promise to dadi and Maya chachi. This girl didn’t deserve this cheating and she had every right to know what Harshad thought about her.

“Nandini… I want to tell you something.”

Nandini smiled and tilted her neck in an attentive gesture, with her eyes focused on his eyes, “Yes?”

“Err… Harshad… He is…”

“He is??”

Before he could say anything, the glass door of the balcony opened and they were both startled. Maya was standing there in her nightwear, with an adoring smile on her sleepy face. “Manik, Nandini… I know it is a big day tomorrow. You must be feeling anxious but you need sleep, baccha! Go and try to take some rest.”

“Yeah, chachi…” Manik cleared his throat.

Nandini jumped down from the parapet and went to Maya. Maya touched her cheek and said, “It’s a new place, I know you must be getting apprehensive. So, I came to check on you. You can sleep with me tonight, if you are feeling scared in your room.”

“Ji!” Nandini nodded and tucked her hair behind her ear. An act that Manik found insanely cute.

Manik kept standing in the balcony and Maya left, taking Nandini with her, who followed her but not before turning to Manik. He knew that she would turn to look at him.

He sighed!!

He hated her for that one glance she threw at him, before going away, everytime! He hated her for being this cute and unassuming. He hated her for taking his name in a way no one had ever took. He hated her for having this effect on him!!!

‘God! I hate her so much!!’

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Divyanshi says:

    Awesome chapter

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lovely finally I got your story to read superbbbbbbbbb ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ story dear

  3. maniknandini1 says:

    The feelings at the end just shook me.. How deeply he feels for her.
    The the Nick names you have given to nandini I just loved them. ❤

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